'Books show how life is a source of material for art'

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Books show how life is a source of material for art
Simon is founder of Tse Tse Fly Middle East, a regional platform supporting artists and experimental musicians

Artist, writer and curator Simon Coates prefers his literature high paced and heavy.

By Staff Reporter

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Published: Fri 15 Apr 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 15 Apr 2016, 5:49 PM

What book(s) are you reading right now?
I've been reading A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James for the past couple of months. I usually get through books at a high pace, but this one is pretty demanding as it has plot layer upon plot layer. I'm a big fan of Jamaican literature and have no problem with patois, but James has taken the format to a brand new level. Ostensibly about Bob Marley's attempted assassination in the mid-1970s, the book paints pictures of political and social life on the island at the time. Tough but worth it.
What the books that changed your life and shaped your outlook?
In my late teens, I discovered Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Jean Cocteau. Apart from making me immediately wish I was French - I know Camus is Algerian but he wrote in French -Satre and Camus introduced me to the concept of existentialism, thus shaping an approach to my own artwork that is with me to this day.
I read Nausea and L'Etranger during one summer holiday and became a whole new person. I found a beautifully bound copy of Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles in a second-hand bookshop around the same time. I still have it now, some twenty-plus years later.
Which are the titles or authors you can pick up and read any time?
In the 1930s, two authors named WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman wrote two books: 1066 And All That and And Now All This. Both books are parodies of school his- tory and geography textbooks and first appeared in serial form in the satirical Punch magazine. The books are silly, absurd and very, very funny. I know that I can pick them up at any time and have a good giggle. I reckon I read them both at least once a year. Also, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. A hoot.
What are the books you would love to pass on to your children or any young person to read and treasure?
Probably sounds a bit heavy but Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire makes a great gift for anyone. It's poetry, but poetry at its most visceral and temperamental.
Baudelaire really did suffer the slings and arrows of life but tried to exorcise his experiences through his written work. So the book illustrates how writing can help salve the soul as well as showing how life can be used as an endless source of material for art and expression.
How important are books to you in your every day life?
Absolutely essential. A lot of my own artwork is informed by literature, whether its fiction or non-fiction. We were recently in the UK performing at a festival with Tse Tse Fly recently, and it was interesting to note how many of our conversations were peppered with quotes that we had picked up from the written word along the way. Also, an artist can create a whole body of work based on a few well-chosen words from a writer who has condensed a notion into a sentence or a stanza.
- As told to staff reporter

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